Writing And The Rules – Time To Rebel?
I stop in at Word Wise on a daily basis, Dan Santow always has something interesting to say regarding words, grammar or writing as a craft. I find myself agreeing with what he writes more often than not.
Today though, he had a post on punctuation and quotation marks and remarked that, “commas and periods should always go inside the quotation marks”, regardless of any grammatical logic. Now any time someone decides to throw logic out the window in favor of some arbitrary rule, I get just a little twitchy. Especially if I think that the ‘reasoning’ behind the message is nothing more than prescriptivism.
Any of you traditional print guys feel free to jump in and correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that whole ‘period inside the quotes’ rules due to some typesetting best practice so that the little periods wouldn’t fall out and get lost?
Even if that’s not true, let’s not toss logic aside. Take a look at one of his examples:
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world,” said Rick, “she walks into mine.”
Personally, I think it makes much more sense for the period to be placed outside of the quotation marks in the last bit of that sentence. The period signifies the end of the entire sentence, not just that little quotation. I even prefer that the comma in the first part of the sentence be placed outside the quotation marks. After all, Rick wasn’t using the comma, the author was.
And what about this one? “In American English single quote marks are used in only a few instances – and the only one that most of us ever encounter is when a quotation occurs within another quotation”.
Sorry. I use single quotes quite often, In fact, I only use double quotation marks when I’m quoting someone.
These rules strike me as coming from the same group of old, dead people that insisted you shouldn’t start a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but’ or end a sentence with a preposition. And I think that’s simply absurd.